2011: How we rated grades ... and teachers

Boys ‘N the Neighborhood: The picture was taken in ‘57 or ‘58 in Wilmette, Ill.  Neighborhood kids are all sitting on a 1940s Ford truck.  Dr. Earl Lord is the middle boy on the top row at about 8 or 9 years of age. Submitted by Earl Lord, DDS, of Cottonwood.

Boys ‘N the Neighborhood: The picture was taken in ‘57 or ‘58 in Wilmette, Ill. Neighborhood kids are all sitting on a 1940s Ford truck. Dr. Earl Lord is the middle boy on the top row at about 8 or 9 years of age. Submitted by Earl Lord, DDS, of Cottonwood.

No, no…our favorite grade is not “A-plus.” I’m talking Boomers’ favorite school grade. By a tiny margin, focus group members selected fourth grade.

Not surprisingly, several panelists picked the quality of the year by how much they liked the teacher. Let’s listen to what they said:

“My favorite was probably 2nd grade,” said A.T. “I had great playmates that I still call my friends today. I busted my lip open in class and got to go home early after bleeding on my teacher’s dress.

“I was thoroughly in love with a guy, who never returned my affection … but rejection didn’t mean much then. I had a bicycle and roamed free, unafraid and unmolested. My brother and sister hadn’t yet decided that I was unworthy of their attention. It was a great life!”

T.C. also voted for 2nd grade. “I had the same teacher I’d had in first grade. It was finally comfortable, not new or scary.”

“It was 4th grade,” P.M. recalled. “I had a man teacher who was so fun, and he wanted to start an elementary school track team. He got the fourth grade girls to try out. We had a relay team with eight stations, and went to the public schools’ football field and ran track meets against other elementary schools. It was the most fun time, and my first competitive sports experience.”

R.R. also ranked 4th grade tops. “It was the only year in elementary school I had classes in different rooms with different teachers. I loved social studies, where we learned about different places in the world.

“My guess is that in this grade my brain was at its best for grabbing and retaining, like a sponge. So much of everything I remembered I absorbed…and more amazingly, I remember them to this day.”

“My 4th grade teacher was a hottie,” D.H. said. “All the other grades seemed to be mired in a kind of unpleasant lack of self-awareness. Probably fourth grade was too…but she made that year palatable.”

“Fifth grade,” voted D.L. “None of the worries like graduating to middle school, or the pressure to have an official girlfriend. We were at the top of the food chain. Class seemed very easy, and I had an older, experienced teacher who let us get by with way too much.”

Getting older

“In 5th grade my parents took me on two education trips, the first one a historically rich tour of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.” L.H. remembered. “On the second trip I got to go to Mexico City.”

“I liked 6th grade best,” said D.C. “I made straight A’s, played all sports, and joined Boy Scouts. I was captain of the patrol boys. And I really liked my teacher.”

High school years

“My favorite was 9th grade because, at that time, it was the last grade in junior high, and I had a great time that year as a ‘senior,’ J.D. emphasized.

Said E.A.: “My favorite grade was sophomore year. I got freedom with a driver’s license, I belonged to a school social club, I had a boyfriend, and I made good grades. I always had a great relationship with Mom and Dad, and they didn’t give me a hard time because I was a good kid.”

“Sophomore year – my first year in high school,” agreed K.L. “I thought everything was possible and feared nothing.”

“In 10th grade I could drive my Model A to school, and there was very little pressure about the future,” added L.A.

“In 12th grade I had a great group of friends…two girls and five guys who hung out together daily and every weekend,” remembered D.S. “We had great philosophical discussions and built lifetime friendships.”

That last year of high school presented unlimited opportunity, noted M.H. “I had good classes that for once weren’t too hard, a nice boyfriend with a great car, a date every weekend, and I was about to go to college.”

16 things that made teachers special

What teacher do you remember best? Our panel revealed several characteristics that made their best teachers memorable:

1. “She treated the subjects of art and music as if they were just as important as all the other subjects.”

2. “My journalism teacher believed in me, and made me editor of the newspaper. She was always the best sport with the students.”

3. “My history teacher was the first guy I know to have said ‘The reason we study history is because it repeats itself.’”

4. “My English teacher’s lectures held my attention, and I respected her and her knowledge of the subject. She also taught me to write fairly well, and she stressed grammar.”

5. “He made American history come alive by giving us scavenger hunt assignments to find and document various historical places right in our home town.”

6. “My government and history teacher inspired me to choose a career in politics.”

7. “My history teacher had a great sense of history as well as a great sense of humor.”

8. “I’ll always remember my 5th grade teacher, who came to see me when I represented my elementary school in the district spelling bee. He must’ve gotten a substitute to come in so he could be there to watch me spell. When I came in second – which meant I still advanced to the regional bee -- he gave me a great big hug.”

9. “My history teacher’s class on the Civil War was the most unique…it was like attending a soap opera. You left each day wanting to come back soon for the next installment.”

10. “My French teacher thought I was wonderful, and would have named me best French student except some BOY had a fraction of a higher grade in French than I did.”

11. “My history teacher was smart as a whip, challenging, and a real smart aleck. I even visited her in later years after she moved to another city.”

12. “My drama teacher inspired me to my career path.”

13. “In high school I loved my sewing teacher. I took the course for three years and got to be a model at a teachers’ association style show. I went to college wanting to be just like that teacher.”

14. “My 6th grade teacher was the best overall. Somehow he was able to make each and every one of us believe we were his favorite.”

15. “My first grade teacher was the sweetest woman who seemed to genuinely love the children she taught. When I was a child I was painfully shy, but this dear teacher was the one who brought me out, showed me there was no reason to be afraid, and helped me enjoy school.”

16. “My English teacher not only taught the subject, but gave us great advice about getting along in the world. Examples: ‘Get it in writing’ and ‘Always listen to the other side of the story so you’ll know what you’re talking about in an argument, and who the enemy is.’”

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